SpaceX plans cargo launch to space station with experiences and holiday meals
New York Stem Cell Foundation researcher Valentina Fossati prepares test cells from neurologically ill patients for launch to the International Space Station. Photo courtesy of the New York Stem Cell Foundation
ORLANDO, Fla., December 20 (UPI) – NASA and SpaceX plan to send about 13,000 pounds of science experiments, supplies and equipment from Florida to the International Space Station on Tuesday.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to take off at 5:06 am from Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.
Space Force forecasters predict only a 40 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch, citing cumulative clouds, a thick layer of cloud, and surface electric field rules as the main concerns.
In the event of a delay, a backup launch hour is scheduled approximately 24 hours later.
Experiments on board include cells from people with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis that have been grown in the lab; a high-tech “tape gun” or bioprinter that can print patches of tissue as a type of bandage; and surveys of how plants grow in space.
The capsule will also contain a variety of Christmas meals including “turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans and mushrooms, cornbread vinaigrette, cranberry and apple dessert, and cobbler with cherries and blueberries, âthe space agency said.
The astronauts are expected to announce in a video transmission Monday which festive meal they will choose.
NASA astronauts on the space station are Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Mark Vande Hei. They are accompanied by Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Piotr Dubrovnik, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer.
Astronauts and robotic equipment will subject the cells of patients with Parkinson’s disease or MS to tests in near-weightless space.
The experiment is the third of its kind to be sent to the space station as the National Stem Cell Foundation searches for cures. Such remedies could also extend to other neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, said Dr Paula Grisanti, CEO of the foundation, in an interview.
âWe believe this research could lead to new knowledge or advancements in neurodegenerative diseases, which affect millions of Americans,â said Grisanti. “We hope for new insights or new discoveries on the process of neurodegeneration.”
The foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Louisville, Ky., Has spent around $ 1 million on microgravity research to date, she said.
Such previous studies have already confirmed that microgravity allows easier and more precise observation of cell tissue and the nature of diseased cells, said Grisanti. This is because the lack of gravity means the cells are not as compressed.
âEveryone is so excited, so encouraged by what’s going on up thereâ¦ it feels so like we’re on the verge of a great discovery,â she said.
The bioprinter, a project of the German Space Agency, uses cells and biological molecules to imprint tissue structures.
“In manned space exploration missions, skin lesions must be treated quickly and effectively,” project manager Michael Becker said in a press release.
“Mobile bioprinting could dramatically accelerate the healing processâ¦ and is an important step for further personalized medicine in space and on Earth.”